CHAPTER ONE - PART ONE - ARRIVAL

The year is 2069. There’s nothing left in this world except death and decay: decay; decay, disease and famine. It all started ten years ago, when all of a sudden, the traffic sped up; the paint on buildings became nothing but a colourful confusion of bright light and claustrophobic movement.

Head: around, around, around. Eyes: side to side to side: cars, shops, people, voices, sky, pavement, buses. Yes… Ten years ago to the day, all of a sudden, they first arrived. I remember the sound. The sound will never leave me. The sound of a wailing: like shadows of all the tortured souls to have ever existed.

“Bitsee… Bitsee… Bitsee” – It’s somebody’s voice overshadowing the overwhelming noise locked in between the intermittent passages of stunning silence. I think it’s a voice I know? I think it’s my father’s voice…

I can barely hold onto his words. I can taste the drop in his tone: a drop of panic, confusion and concern. It’s a tone I’ve heard before, but there’s a severity like never before. I watch his mouth pull different shapes, like there are words coming out, but the silence has become deafening once again.

I start shaking; my body is acting of its own accord. When my neck jolts upright from the rapid rigours routing through my body, I notice them. There are hundreds of them: maybe thousands. They appear to be like neon bees connected to one another through an electric impulse.

The light they omit overwhelms me in dizziness. I snap my eyes back to my father, which is when I notice them. Onii-san and Mama lying on the pavement, Onee-chan collapsed next to them, her face painted with tears. It’s at this moment I notice it is not my body that is shaking of its own accord; it is Papa that is shaking me by the shoulders.

“Ruuuuuuuuuuuuunnnn!” my father bellowed. Before I could even contemplate his words, he had already lifted Onee-chan from the floor and flung her onto his shoulder, grabbed my hand and begun running. I couldn’t find my voice, but I was screaming for him to stop. Mama and Onii-san were still lying on the floor; a thickness of red seeping from around the bodies. They were dead.

It was starting to make sense. It became apparent at that moment that shards of light were raining down from the sky; evaporating drones of people spread through the streets. People were running for their lives. We were running and running and running: left, left, left, right. I’m not sure.

Finally we were inside a building. The door closed behind. The screaming continued. Ten years ago today they arrived: the oppressors from another world. The new central authority. They would later become known as: ‘The Gatekeepers’.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE - PART TWO - NOTHING

The next part happened so fast that even trying to play the game of hindsight, it’s still a blur.

The first thing I could hear was the deafening silence. That might sound strange, but the last thing I heard before collapsing into my dreams were screams. Screams and shrieks so loud the hairs all over my body stood up as though they were protecting me from pure malevolence.

When I had convinced my mind to act courageously and part my eye-lids, a blinding blackness betrayed my sight. I wasn’t even sure if I’d opened my eyes.

I whispered the only words which clouded my mind… “Oto-San… Onee-San?”

Nothing. No response.

I reached my hand out, expecting to touch something… Anything. Hoping. Again; nothing. On autopilot, my body clambered to its feet. The nothingness gripped my body and pushed me forwards. Was I dead?
I repeated my previous words: “Oto-san? Onee-San?”.

Still nothing. An overwhelming fear shrouded my mind and consumed my senses. I screamed so loud I was convinced my throat was about to rocket through my mouth.

After some time, I walked forwards, my hands out in front of me. Stumbling around in the pitch black I came to what felt like a wall and shimmied my way along. Somehow I found a light switch and reluctantly flicked it upwards.

The first thing I noticed in the light of the room was the pungent smell. A smell so powerful I threw up instantly. It was like the darkness had dulled my sense of smell.

The next thing I noticed… Nothing.

The room was empty. But the smell made sense. There was stale blood in every corner of the room and I couldn’t see my father or sister anywhere. This time I couldn’t bring myself to scream.

I was inside some kind of pharmacy – it looked like it had been looted. The door ushered me in its general direction; I couldn’t resist. My body still wasn’t under my control as I tentatively trudged towards the threshold of the door.

I pulled down the door handle, opened the door and crept through…

All I remember was white. Everything was white. I squeezed my eyes open and closed them repeatedly. I made a fist and lifted my knuckles to my eyes – rubbing vigorously.

Eventually my eyes found their focus and before me lay a street in ruins. Before I was taken the only image I could fully process was the two people who lay on the opposite pavement; I believe they must have been husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, or lovers. The remains of their mutilated corpses half-embraced in an eternal night.

A flash appeared out of the left corner of my eye… But I couldn’t take my eyes off that couple, that image will never leave me. What had happened to them? Why had this happened to them? Was anybody waiting for them?

Children?

The flash turned into three or four people all around me. I couldn’t figure out what they were wearing, but it wasn’t normal clothing.

The next thing I know I’m in a moving vehicle and once again I can see nothing.

And this is where things really started to get interesting…

CHAPTER ONE - PART THREE - TEST

A reverberation of stamps swallowed the atmosphere around me. Cheers and jeers were but a low hum above the pounding of the feet from the surrounding crowd.

I stood there… Waiting.

“What will come out of that door?”

In the years leading up to this moment, I’d faced numerous tests. My skills meticulously conditioned for battle, programmed to kill, manufactured to destroy.

I’ve decided to tell this part of my journey next whilst it is still fresh in my mind; the rest will come later.

Standing there, I remembered what my sensei tried to tell me about the sensation of standing here. Not knowing whether I will live or die: this was a fight to the death.

About to walk through the doors which lay before me was another trained killer. He or she, were about to do everything in their power to end my life. I didn’t blame them. They had no choice. Just like me.

It might seem cruel but there’s just no space for the weak in this world anymore. Sensei taught me that. We were the resistance in the fight against The Gatekeepers; and you didn’t want to become their captive. I’d heard rumours of what they did to the human race but the truth was, nobody really knew, because nobody had lived to tell the tale.

“Bitsee… Bitsee” a fading shrieking voice penetrated my mind. I slowly twisted my neck and cast my glare back towards where I had come from.

My eyes settled upon a figure I knew. One of the others girls I had trained with. She lifted her index finger and brought it to her temple. She tapped several times.

I nodded in reply and then re-focused on the doors. Focus Bits; no time for reminiscing. The truly terrifying thought that tunnelled through my mind was that I did not know my enemy. Man? Woman? Something else?

It really didn’t matter: man or woman, I was going to be the one to send them to their grave.

The large doors ahead of me began to move and the noise from the crowd came into focus once more. My senses were finding me again: I no longer felt as though I was caught in a long-since past memory. The crowd’s roar was like a tidal wave of electric venom; its pulsating heart inconsistently nipping my skin.

Then the noise stopped. The ceaseless noise had finally ceased and it quickly became apparent as to why.

I must have missed it approach, but stood before me, was an almost indescribable creature. I think it must have once been a man; but what it was now was far from a man. I knew that genetic modifications and enhancements of human beings were fairly common practise in today’s world, in some ways they were a necessary evil, but I hadn’t seen them put into practise with such extremity before this day.

The ‘man’ stood before me was freakishly tall, perhaps over 7 feet, growth hormones of the 2050s no doubt. And one of his hands had been replaced with a hideous looking scythe; which had been hyper-infused with aqua-based cryptographic energy. Meanwhile, his muscle composition reflected hormone manipulation beyond the limits of humanity. He reminded me of a character from an OG board game: the popular WarHammer series from last century – oyaji was a big collector – and this guy looked like a sci-fi roided-up version of one of the toons called ‘Morg N’ Thorg’. He was clearly a product of some rich aristocrat’s insane physical and mental ID; forged by fear of The Gatekeepers. And this is when I started to look at him differently…

When my eyes rested upon his face my fear turned to pity.

The scars which littered his face which were not reminiscent of battles which had past, but of a lifetime of: solitude, oppression and torment. He was a victim of fear, a victim of his shareholders and a victim of this era.

And soon he would be a victim of mine.

I removed my Katana from its Saya, nonchalantly placed it on my shoulder, and smiled at the man before me.

“I’ll help you” I whispered to him delicately.

The creature’s eyes widened, his pupils fixated upon my own, and his shoulders raised.

“Hajime!” shouted the speakerphones.

The next thing that happened was the creature’s head parted from its body. In the brief moments which had past, as if by involuntary instinct, I filled the space between us and decapitated him.

The crowd around me roared with appreciation and fascination. But I wasn’t concerned with that. I looked down upon the eyes within the head which had now found its place upon the sand. I placed my hands together and bowed to my opponent – my sensei and oyaji had instilled the importance of honour within me – this man deserved respect.

Normally I would wipe the blood from my katana, but this was a clean kill, so I placed it back within the Saya.

“Yasuraka ni o nemuri kudasaiâ” I uttered, as I walked away.